Alex Fowler, Head of Offshore Sales Service Extensions/ Aftermarket at Siemens Gamesa and RenewableUK Shadow Board member, outlines the exciting transformation the offshore wind industry has brought to the North east and Humber.
Having attended the RenewableUK Ports & Vessels conference held in North East England on 15th March 2023, myself and Johnny Love wrote this blog noting our learnings and insights.
We wanted to follow up 2 months on with further thoughts on how the transformation from traditional energy generation to renewable energy is taking shape in North East England and its neighbour the Humber. To do this, I would like to briefly shine a spotlight on three key themes featured in articles making the news in recent weeks.
The first of these themes is scale. Since 2019 Orsted’s Hornsea 1 & 2 projects, operated and maintained from Grimsby in the Humber, have each been known as the “largest windfarm in the world” with a capacity of around 1.2GW and 1.3GW respectively, but it seems like that title changes hands quickly these days! The Berwick Bank project being developed by SSE Renewables may be some years from seeing turbines in the water, but will be a strong contender for the title, with a potential capacity of up to 4.1GW of clean energy. Of course, Berwick Bank is situated in Scottish waters, but the 180km export cable is planned to hit land near Blyth on the Northumberland coast. The town is already a hotbed for renewable energy playing host to the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) – more on them later! SSE Renewables have kicked off their public consultations and it will be exciting as a local resident to watch the plans take shape in the coming years.
The second theme I noticed is the role of innovation. OREC is leading a consortium that includes Microsoft and some of the UK’s leading innovators to create (you guessed it!) “the biggest offshore wind living lab in the world.” The site will be located in the Humber linked to the Lynn and Inner Dowsing Windfarm. This will see the creation of high-fidelitycore communications infrastructure, enabling testing and demonstration of remote digital solutions. Examples of solutions would include cybersecurity products, zero emissions vessels,robotics and autonomous maintenance systems. Such digitalisation is particularly critical to ushering in the digital future of operation and maintenance of windfarms in the drive to make sure they are cleaner and safer to service in the decades to come. It’s great to see the Humber continuing to lead in offshore wind – some are already calling it the ‘silicon estuary’ thanks to its unique blend of innovation, experience and expertise in the industry.
The third and final theme which struck me is delivery. Only this week we heard that for the first time ever, wind is the main source of UK electricity. It is incredible how successful the UK has been in ramping up offshore wind over the last decade. The challenges to continue such acceleration particularly with grid and planning constraints are well known. However, the ability of the supply chain to continue meeting critical milestones for successful implementation remains impressive. So, it was no surprise to hear that Saipem has successfully installed the jacket and topside for Dogger Bank A and the jacket for Dogger Bank B. The site is located over 130 km off the northeast coast of England with a grid connection slightly to the south in the Humber it will be, at the time of completion, the world’s largest offshore wind farm (you guessed it again!) and will be capable of powering 6 million British homes.
It is fantastic to live and work in a region at the heart of the clean energy revolution. The scale is both exciting and daunting. Innovation is happening but we need more supported by new talent and diversity of ideas in the industry. Relentless focus on delivery is going to be key to ensure the records keep on being broken and the UK retains a world leading position in renewable energy deployment.
About the Author:
Alex Fowler has lived, studied and worked in North East England all his life. He is a keen runner, with a favourite route being the iconic “black path” trail following the River Tees from Middlesbrough to Redcar. Having grown up in Middlesbrough, witnessing the evolution of this place to a leader in the transition to clean energy is exciting. Now living in Whitley Bay, Alex also has the pleasure to watch the rebirth of the River Tyne as a key offshore wind hub for operation and maintenance as well as supply chain activity. Alex has spent the last decade with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy working with a talented and dedicated sales team shaping contracts for some of the worlds’ largest windfarms.